The 21st-century introduced opened floor plans at home and work. People clearly enjoy the spaciousness and flow. And, even in the most formal and traditional settings, hardwood flooring now makes a high-impact difference bringing a building to life.
Solid hardwood flooring has replaced the wall-to-wall carpeting of the late 20th-century, and building contractors, house flippers, and home renovators have rediscovered the interest and beauty of original wood flooring. Offices, stores, bars and restaurants, and places of worship now feature hardwood flooring in varied stains, grains, and designs. But getting it just right takes some skill and talent.
There are alternatives.
- Engineered Wood Flooring is manufactured by layering real wood (plywood) with plastic laminate veneers. It costs more than regular wood, and it is made to provide greater stability and resistance to temperature and humidity.
- Acrylic-treated Wood Flooring is rich with color and protection processed throughout the wood to give it a consistent look. Acrylic or urethane finishes may be applied later to hardwoods, but acrylic-treated wood flooring comes with the finish worked allowing installation without fumes.
These engineered “woods” have become popular alternatives to linoleum and tile. Customers opt for DIY installation and moderate pricing. However, they can lack the subtle feel, look, and comfort of real hardwood flooring.
Types of solid wood flooring:
Wood flooring comes unfinished or prefinished. The factory sands and finishes the wood at the plant whereas the contractor sands and finishes the product at the work site before installation.
According to DIY Network, “Unfinished hardwood flooring is a good option if you want a custom stain applied before the final finish, or if you want to match the color of existing flooring.” When installed, the woods is repeatedly sealed with a protectant to resist stains and water damage. Prefinished hardwood, however, arrives ready to lay and use quickly.
Products can vary, but the standards are:
- Strip flooring is narrow. The strips are 1.5-inches to 2.25-inches wide with varying thickness.
- Plank flooring is wider, 3 to 8 inches in width and .5 or .75-inches thick.
- Parquet flooring describes decorative geometric patterns around the room’s edge or throughout the floor.
Natural hardwoods come from deciduous trees, including oak, of course. But ash, birch, mahogany, maple, teak, and walnut work well with varying rich colors and handsome grains. Most softwoods come from evergreens like cedar, fir, larch, spruce, and the always popular pine. Contemporary interior designers are choosing exotic species like rich Brazilian Cherry, markedly-striped Tigerwood, and fluid-stained Kempas. But domestic woods still rule:
- American Cherry grades from red to brown in a dense quality that deepens over the years and is often left untreated.
- Ash varies greatly in color, but designers seem to prefer its palest options for bringing light to a dark room or capturing the light by the seaside.
- Beech is pale, almost white to reddish-brown with a tight uniform grain to enlarge any room.
- Hickory has wide variations in grain and stain, a rustic complement to modern kitchens and offices.
- Maple features creamy and subtle qualities with little variation from board to board. It is hard and scratch resistant because it is less porous than some woods.
The hardest woods are the most durable and available in distinctly different colors. Do-it-yourself carpenters find softer woods easier to work with and more economical. And, the exotic woods present high cost and require expert handling. Whichever way you go, opting for hardwood flooring can bring your building to life.
7 times hardwood flooring made a difference:
Hardwood floors are very durable. With appropriate care, they can last centuries. They are found in historic buildings, schools, palaces, castles, and more. High traffic will age and scar them. The color may darken, and the surfaces pit. But they can be restored to their original beauty.
- The Belfair Clubhouse graces the sprawling green acres of the Belfair Plantation in Bluffton, SC. A meeting, dining, and gathering place as well as a popular wedding venue. It seems a lot of foot traffic seven days a week. The floor hosts visitors, wedding dancers, and moving furniture and equipment.
The floor had been heavily used. Its wood was gouged and scratched, and the finish was uneven. The Clubhouse could have torn out and replaced the 5,000 square feet (ca. 465 square meters) of flooring or made a better and lower-priced decision.
An engineered hand-scraped floor was only six years old. That meant the club could not order regular floor sanding and refinishing. So, they made the better choice to deep clean and recoat the floor. The job required cleaning, sealing, and coat the finish to a rich and mellow finish that lightened and seemingly enlarged the rooms — $90,000 cheaper than replacing the floor.
- The Montage hotels do not skimp on their properties. But they made a mistake at the Montage Palmetto Bluff “where Southern hospitality and dreamy decadence converge.”
It’s a 20,000-acre community with a marina, village, and Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course.
Only two months after their installation, the floors were showing wear throughout the facility. Unfortunately, the contractors had opted for a low-quality coating. Sanding the floors to their naturally warm and native pine was important to the resort’s rustic setting. It was a difficult assignment because the traffic limited work to tight windows. But a quality water-based finish with no fumes allowed the resort and it’s guests’ rest and enjoy without bother.
- Contemporary offices are using hardwood floors to create and extend their image. Woods and stains are selected to mix and match with granite and marble floors and/or carpeting. The volume and type of foot traffic help determine the wood and finish.
Office designers are asking for parquet inlays, angled boards, and herringbone patterns to create variety. Varying woods and patterns are laid to differentiate workspaces and designated traffic paths. And, the rich textures add value to the business’s image and welcome.
- One Hampton Lake hosts apartment residents in a unique lake-side environment among the moss-dripping oaks near Hilton Head, SC. Architects and interior decorators have designed this location to optimize the natural ecosystem of stone, water, and wood.
Plans required a 5-star floor installation to bring that local environment into the development’s Sales and Leasing Center where the walls would be reclaimed bleached barn wood. To complement that theme, they choose a new specialty installation of barn wood blending white oak with hints of red.
Each piece of barn wood has its own character defined by age and weathering. The installation called for acclimating the wood to its new environment for at least two weeks. Using engineered wood offered three to four times the product with a wear layer to resist use and care.
- Moshe Safdie and Associates created the visionary Jepson Center at Savannah’s Telfair Museum. Pristine and bright white, the exterior and interior remain inviting and warm with its maple floors.
Heavy foot traffic and sun bleaching through its large windows and glass roof had damaged the maple over 10 years. They required sanding and treatment to restore their beauty. Because of the window placement, the floors had been unevenly bleached by the sun’s UV and IV rays. And, any work had to accommodate museum hours and minimize dust and odors. The floors needed deep sanding and a finishing coat to highlight but not stain the maple’s original beauty.
- The Montage Palmetto Grove hosts the Somerset Chapel, a tradition-rich wedding and event venue. Romantic and intimate, classically-designed and contemporarily-equipped, the Chapel belongs among the surrounding trees, lawns, and water.
The chapel’s premium-grade Heart Pine had been laid in random widths from five to ten inches, but it had been stressed over the years by wedding guests, high-heeled dancers, and catering equipment. It needed sanding to repair the damage and reclaim its original warmth and luster. It was finally sealed and coated with a satin finish to intensify the way it accented the stark white walls. The chapel floors being restored made all the difference to the business and its clients.
- A beautiful home was designed and built to order among a grove of birch trees in Okatie, SC. The four bedrooms, three bath house required installation and finishing throughout its huge connected kitchen, dining and family room, office, gathering room, home theater room, and staircase,
This house favored distressed brick interior walls and hearth dominated by gray-white walls, ceilings, columns, and granite countertops. The installation called for 3,500 square feet of 100-year-old reclaimed wood. Sanded, stained, and coated with polyurethane, the floor brought comfort and warmth to the home.
Look for the certification!
If you’re thinking of building, restoring, expanding, or renovating the floors in your home, business, or public venue, you should look for an NWFA’s Certified Professional. The certification is some assurance your professional know wood flooring inside and out, has a feel for the application you want, understands installation options, can work within and around your schedule, and can apply the gold standard in coating and finishes.
Hardwood flooring has regained its value pushing wall-to-wall carpeting aside to engage residents and guests in open and expanding floor plans. They welcome different eras of taste in furniture styles, paint palettes, and other decor elements. Their soft, subtle, and textured colors offer a mellow canvas where you can place throw rugs or intricately-designed carpets. Whether the room uses bean bag chairs Queen Anne cherry furniture, or Mid-century Modern themes, hardwood flooring can bring the space to life.